Designated Sites in the Mourne AONB

The range of habitats is recognised nationally and internationally by the numerous designations, ranging from Areas of Special Scientific Interest to Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protected Areas to a Ramsar site at Carlingford Lough (see table footnote). Some of the designations are currently termed as being in an unfavourable condition; In 2006 a commitment was made to ensure 95% of features on statutory designated sites are in, or approaching, favourable condition (or target condition) by 2016.

The following table lists all of the designations found within the Mourne AONB.

Designated sites International European National Regional
Eastern Mournes   SAC ASSI  
Carlingford Lough Ramsar SPA ASSI  
Rostrevor wood   SAC NNR & ASSI  
Murlough   SAC NNR & ASSI  
Ballybannan     ASSI  
Castlewellan lake     ASSI  
Samuel’s Port     ASSI  
Shimna river     ASSI  
Kilbroney River     ASSI  
Kilkeel Steps     ASSI  
Kilkeel Coast     Proposed ASSI  
Whitewater River     Proposed ASSI  
Western Mournes     Proposed ASSI SLNCI
Ballylough grasslands       SLNCI
Moneycarragh river       SLNCI
Seeconnell       SLNCI
Trassey river       SLNCI
Slieve Croob       SLNCI
Shague hill       SLNCI
Slievenagarragh forest       SLNCI
Down coast       SLNCI
St. Pious hill        

Ramsar site – The Convention on Wetland of International Importance, especially as wildfowl habitat was adopted at a meeting held at Ramsar in Iran. The UK Government in signing the convention in 1973 designates wetlands in accordance with agreed criteria. A wetland is regarded as internationally important if it regularly supports 20,000 waterfowl or 1% of a species, or sub-species of waterfowl.

SAC –Special Area of Conservation means a site of European Community importance designated under the EU Habitats Directive by the Member States through a statutory, administrative and/or contractual act where the necessary conservation measures are applied for the maintenance or restoration, at a favourable conservation status, of the natural habitats and/or the populations of the species for which the site is designated.

SPA – Special Protection Areas (SPA) are designated under the European Commission Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (The Birds Directive). All European Community member States are required to identify internationally important areas for breeding, over-wintering and migrating birds and designate them as Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

ASSI. – Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) are defined in the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (N.I.) Order 1985 as areas of land that have been identified by as being of the highest degree of conservation value. For more information on the individual ASSIs in County Down see

NNR – National Nature Reserve – A nature reserve is defined as an area of importance for flora, fauna or features of geological or other special interest, which are reserved and managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research. Northern Ireland Environment Agency declares nature reserves under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

SLNCI – Site of Local Nature Conservation Importance: local development plans generally include protection of these sites.